Legal Battle Against Southwest LRT Continues

The lawsuit claims the Metropolitan Council violated federal law by choosing the current Southwest LRT route prior to the completion of an environmental study.

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Credit: Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons

MINNEAPOLIS – A lawsuit from three years ago is the latest hurdle the Metropolitan Council must clear before moving forward with the Southwest Light Rail line.

In 2014, the Lakes and Parks Alliance (LPA) sued the Met Council over the proposed route for $1.9 billion Southwest LRT project. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, claims the Met Council violated federal law by choosing the current Southwest LRT route prior to the completion of an environmental study.

The light rail extension stretches nearly 15 miles and would connect wealthy western suburbs to the Twin Cities. However, it is a 2.5 mile stretch through the Kenilworth corridor that has caused an uproar.

The Kenilworth corridor boasts popular trails for bicyclists and pedestrians in Minneapolis’ Chain of Lakes area. According to the LPA, the environmental review completed by the Met Council prior to selecting the light rail route was not in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The LPA reports thousands of trees and vegetation would be destroyed in the construction of the light rail extension.

The Met Council claims the deadline for a lawsuit over federal environmental laws is gone and the case should be dismissed, according to the Star Tribune.

Lawyers for both sides faced off in an hourlong hearing this week. If the court were to side with the LPA, the Met Council would have to restart the environmental review of the Southwest LRT project in compliance with NEPA. This would be another setback for the project which has faced several funding challenges. If the court rules in favor of the Met Council, the project route will go on as planned.

During this week’s hearing, U.S. District Judge John Tunheim promised to rule “as quickly as possible on the lawsuit, according to the Star Tribune.

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